Swimming sensation, Mikaili Charlemagne, set a new national record in the Women’s 50m Freestyle on Saturday at the Commonwealth Games now underway in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
In her first event of the tournament, the nineteen-year-old clocked 26.75 seconds in Heat 6, shattering her previous personal best of 26.99 seconds. However, the young swimmer failed to qualify for the next round, placing 21st overall in the nine heats.
Speaking moments after her event on Saturday at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre, Charlemagne said she was proud of her performance albeit acknowledging that she could have done better.
“I’m really happy with my swim and the time that I swam,” Charlemagne said. “I’m not too happy with how I executed the race; I felt that I could have executed it better…. But I’m very happy and looking forward to swimming tomorrow (Sunday).”
Charlemagne added: “I felt very smooth in the water. I feel that all the training I did in Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and at school in the beginning of the year really helped me in the race today. I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had, being able to train with some of the best coaches around the Caribbean and the world.”
Charlemagne also praised her coach in Jamaica, Rory Alvaranga, and Saint Lucian coach, David Peterkin, both of whom, she said, formulated a game plan for her Commonwealth Games outing. She credited her new personal best time to that collaboration.
The swimmer’s mother, Constance Rene, accompanied officials from Team Saint Lucia at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre to watch the Heat firsthand. However, she noted that she did not feel pressured by her mom’s attendance.
“I like having my parents in the audience, but I’ve been working with a sports psychologist and have learned how to manage stress and anxiety leading up to the race,” Charlemagne noted. “So I tend to zone in on myself before my race and try not to look up at the crowd. I actually heard her right before I started my race and that was kind of nice just knowing that she’s there watching.”
Her advice to youngsters considering taking up a sport: “Just do what you love and always listen to your coaches. That’s a big factor because they’re the experts. You always have something to learn from more experienced people in the sport. Always be willing to go out there and meet new people and connect and network. That’s something that really helps in a sport like this.”
For her part, Rene said she was pleased with her daughter’s performance: “I’m just ecstatic that she was able to swim her personal best. I’m happy for her because I know the effort that she has put in. It’s not an easy feat. I am very proud of her and just looking forward to greater things from her because I know this is only just the start. I’m thankful to the coaches, (and) I’m thankful to the SLOC Inc. for giving her the opportunity.”
Rene also thanked the St. Lucia Aquatics Federation for providing the facilities and support her daughter has received.
Coach Peterkin, who trained Charlemagne prior to and during her outing at the Games, said Charlemagne seemed eager and ready to compete in the Games.
“She seemed settled and she seemed ready to do it,” Peterkin said. “So we did some training and I got into her head a little bit because I certainly believe that 80% of it, when you come to competition, is a new head. If you believe in yourself strongly and you know what you can do, then you just go out and give everything you can.”
With Charlemagne scheduled to compete in Heat 4 of the Women’s 50m Butterfly on Sunday, July 31, Peterkin is hoping that the swimmer will replicate Saturday’s performance.
Meanwhile, Hon. Kenson Casimir, Minister for Sports, who was among the officials at Saturday’s event, described witnessing the event as “a proud moment”, adding that the young swimmer continues to impress.
“I’m very happy with the progress that Mikaili continues to make,” Hon. Casimir said. “It’s just important that we all, as a nation, rally behind her. It’s not enough for everybody to just look to the Minister of Sports, the Ministry of Sports, the (Saint Lucia) Olympic Committee and the Swimming Association. I think we all need to embrace, (and) we all need to show words of encouragement on social media. The corporate part of Saint Lucia needs to also play their part in terms of providing the finances and all the logistics to push us through to the next set of races, and, of course, in future Olympians.”
Hon. Casimir, who joined the athletes for lunch at the University of Birmingham campus after the event, wished all the athletes success in their respective competitions.
“We’re looking forward to them doing their best and we certainly hope that we can continue to look back at this moment and see where we transitioned into ensuring that our athletes were given the best treatment they can get to continue to flourish.”
Source: Commonwealth Games Saint Lucia. Headline Photo: Swimmer Mikaili Charlemagne, centre, flanked by her mother, Constance, and coach, David Peterkin, following Saturday’s 50m Freestyle Heat.